Today NASSCOM Emerge Forum in Chennai conducted a Panel discussion on “Proven Strategies by Emerging Companies to become Employers of Choice”. I was invited to be one of the panellist by Senthil Kumar of NASSCOM Chennai and Emerge Forum Chairperson George Vettah (CEO of Kallos Solutions). I shared the dais with Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy (CEO of Maarga Information Systems).
George started off the session with a positive message that Small & Medium companies in Emerge should approach and develop their HR strategies with an upbeat attitude, rather than as under-dogs to IT biggies in India. There is lot that SMEs can offer that the Biggies can’t deliver due to their weight.
I talked about 5-6 things that worked for us well at Vishwak Solutions. First is the Pay Package, it is important that Emerge companies are at least at the 80-85 Percentile for that role in your city, everything else you do comes next. Second will be to have the minimum hierarchy (though sounds cliché) between the Engineers & Management – this helps by saving cost got by reducing on the number of Senior Level Management talent, which can be passed on to Mid Level talent. Third, have a no-nonsense work atmosphere. Fourth will be to increase your communication during tough-times, mainly to quell rumours which hurt you more. Fifth will be for senior management/founder to get involved while recruiting, mainly to sell your company as a brand where they will want to work. Lastly highlight and provide people with as much Onsite/aboard opportunities; it makes them feel good and as a validation to their talent/performance.
There were about 40 people from various companies. The Q & A session was lively, with many interesting and thought provoking questions, that we enjoyed answering. Overall I was happy to have got a chance to share the panel with two experienced entrepreneurs of this city.
Indo American Chamber of Commerce had organized for a talk today at U.S.Consulate General, Chennai. It was “Rethinking Marketing: The Entrepreneurial Imperative” by Dr. Minet Schindehutte. As always, going through the security at the Consulate office and lack of parking near-by was a pain.
If you are going for any event at US Consulate in Chennai including Saturday movies or to American Consulate Library, remember to carry a Government given ID Card (Driving License, Passport, PAN Card and so on) in original, be there 30 minutes before the event, going by Auto-rickshaw will be the most convenient. Unlike VISA interviews, for these invited events Cellphones are allowed but need to switched off & deposited along with your original ID at the security gate. During the event, I found it difficult without my Mobile for taking photos, writing down notes & doing web references. We have got so used to having with us all the time our Mobile phones. And when you don’t have it you feel you are lost.
Dr. Minet Schindehutte carries a very accomplished bio. She is a scientist, entrepreneur, educator and scholar, a leading American expert on entrepreneurship, with previous work experience both in academia and the private sector. She is the co-author of two books including a book with the same title as this talk today, currently she is an associate professor of entrepreneurship at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management, and a Fulbright Nehru Visiting Scholar BITS Pilani (KK Birla Goa Campus).
Dr.Minet presentation had 10 salient points to remember for a successful marketing, in the talk today due to time given she covered about 6 of them. The key point was that as a seller of a product/service it is extremely important to put ourselves in the shoes of the consumer. Think differently, categorize the audience correctly and so on. She mentioned:
At the end of talk, I was left thinking on how much of these marketing guidelines (which were certainly great when they were written) are valid in this “new normal” world that we are living through now.
This years’ Indian Central Government Budget 2013 was more of a non-event. Industries expected worse with a popular budget with eye only on the upcoming general elections, for that it turned out to be a pretty routine budget. Finance Minister Mr.P.Chidambaram due to his oratory skills seems to have won over the key constituents. But due to mastery of law he probably has masked the bitter sides. Unlike 5 years before, today India’s finance is not all rosy, there is a huge budget deficit and a sense of mutual lack of trust between industries/investors and the Government. But like the wise will say, what went up has to come down and this too shall pass.
In this background, I didn’t follow the budget keenly like the previous years. So as a member when I got the invite from IACC (Indo American Chamber of Commerce) for attending the Post Budget Analysis meeting to be held today I was not sure. Over the last 2-3 years I have reduced/removed my membership in many of the social and other industry associations including INFITT, TiE Chennai, IT SME, Lions Club, KTS (Kani Tamizh Sangam) for various reasons chiefly to take some breather.
Coming back to today’s event. Though I stepped in to it with doubts on how much I will like it, the speakers made it interesting and worth the time.
Thanks to the organizers for a well selected panellist (Listed below) and nice crisp event organization.
- Mr. R. Anand, Partner-Tax & Markets, Ernst & Young P Ltd
- Mr. B. Sriram, Executive Director- Tax & Regulatory services, Price Waterhouse Coopers
- Mr. K. Vaitheeswaran, Chief Executive, K. Vaitheeswaran & Co
- Mr. V. Niranjan, Advocate, Madras High Court
Below are few points that I noted down (by no means comprehensive):
Mr R Anand said Turnover Growth is Vanity, Profit is Sanity, Cash is only Reality. Great quote to remember. Anywhere Any Day – CASH IS KING!!
Deciphering the Current Account Deficit figure, the FM has said in his speech needed by India, translates to about ₹45000Cr Per month.This is a mind-boggling ask. With this hanging over the head, India is Importing ₹8000Cr of fruits,₹10000Cr of Vegetables and the culprit is not Gold Imports. Government has to face the reality of a consumption generation that it leads. Foreign exchange through any means (FII/FDI) is just not coming due to uncertainty in policies. Government could have better served the cause by encouraging exports & dollar revenue simply clarifying many of the ambiguities surrounding tax laws like Service Tax for Exports
Service Tax on Food served in restaurant is ruled by Supreme court as sale of goods and hence a State Subject. But Central budget has introduced Service Tax on Food served in all AC Restaurants, this is going to lead to lot more litigation. Already this area has its share of ambiguities like in Tamil Nadu where the VAT for food ranges widely from 2% to 14% depending on whether the food is branded or not. How do you classify an Idli which doesn’t have a brand printed or baked into it
Success rate of customs, excise and service tax authorities over Taxpayer in cases that were ruled by Supreme Court, High Courts and Tribunals are only in single digits or lower side of double digits. So in over 80% of cases the Taxpayer is hassled by the system
(Yes, you can see me in the above picture at extreme right but being clipped in view)
Over all I got a feeling that most of the speakers were saying that Government has a serious trust deficit on its own taxpayers, as a result is more interested on punitive provisions than encouragement which is what is needed in these globally trying times.
The other day I got an email from a person representing Startup Saturday inviting me to do a talk @ IIT Madras Department of Management Studies. On a follow-up phone call, Mr.Mani Parthasarathy (one of the organizers) explained to me that Startup Saturday is a forum (yet another) for entrepreneurial community and they do monthly events in many cities across India.
I didn’t want to give yet another talk on Entrepreneurship which no one wants to hear & many are already aware :: covering the familiar – on how to raise funds, write a business plan, how to hire, management techniques, branding & so on. Instead I asked for an interactive talk, “Motivating budding Entrepreneurs” (Slidedeck here, PDF here – slides are few & brief). I dropped few hints & nudged the audience into discussing the social & economic ground reality of doing business today in India. The abundance of opportunity in Indian Job market that is available today for a fresh graduate, the peer-pressure for getting into a secure job, a risk-averse culture in the society & lack of governmental/financial support. Though India has come a long way from 1990s when I started, it still has miles to go. Finally I shared what I learnt in my journey & wished them all success in their individual travels. Overall I felt it was a pretty lively session with plenty of interesting questions that I enjoyed discussing.
IIT Madras Campus
When Mr.Mani approached me I readily agreed for the talk as the venue was IIT Madras. I love visiting IIT Madras campus at any given opportunity, the place feels to me so peaceful & serene. Knowing my academic strengths, I never aspired to get into IIT. But I did take the IIT-JEE entrance exam just for peer-pressure, but that’s a story for a different day. Still I carry fond memories for this campus. During my school days my maternal Uncle was doing his Doctorate research in Economics in IIT Madras and he used to bring me every weekend for “Charlie Chaplin” movies. After the movie I will stay for the night in his dormitory & in the morning catch through the window glimpses of Deers & Monkeys roaming freely. In my recent visits to the campus I haven’t seen any of the animals. Today while going to the event and returning both times (evening time say 3PM & 5PM) I saw plenty of Monkeys and Deers in the campus and it was so nice. I cursed myself that I didn’t have my DSLR with me during the visit. Next time…
(Monkeys roaming free near Department of management studies, IIT Madras)
(Happy to see Deers still in IIT Madras, near Shiva Temple in the campus)
TiECon Chennai is an annual event organized by TiE industry body. This year too it happened in Chennai Trade Centre. And I am here listening to some great speakers.
GMR group chairman Mr.G.M.Rao gave a candid talk on his journey, his struggles, tough decisions that he had to take. He attributes the change of directions to circumstances rather than by any design. When the events get tough he often turns to spirituality as the source of his strength in dealing. And on how he spend 6000 hrs for developing a family constitution. We can learn from European businesses that exists for more than 30 generations.
Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev then delivered his Keynote Address in a discussion with Mr.Subroto Bagchi, Co-Founder& Chairman, MindTree Ltd. Highlights of his talk:
- 3 I – Integrity, Inspirational & Insight are needed for a successful entrepreneur
- Stop creating suffering. Everyone around you teach you something that didn’t work for them. They were better off in childhood
- Being in confused state is better than coming to some clunky conclusion. Confusion means you are still looking
- Please run your business gently rather than running it brutally and doing CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). Whatever your doing your being useful to someone, realise it
- You need Grace or access to it through somehow for you to be successful. Take full strides in your journey
- Letting go of control at only certain height like an aircraft & not at 1000 feet-if you do that you will crash
(Photo thanks to Sandeepvarma)
Every independence day the college (SVCE) where I did my Engineering celebrates with an Alumni meet and some activities for Alumnus. I went for the event this year after many years and I had a good time seeing my college buddies, playing some cricket, roaming around the campus with no fear of exams/tests, just taking photographs.
Last month on 15th March 2012 at New Delhi, W3C India & IAMAI (Internet & Mobile Association of India) had organized an one day conference titled “Mobile Web Initiative in India”. I got invited to participate in one of the panel discussions on the day “Challenges of Indic Adoption on Mobile Web” covering on the Technology for enabling Indian Languages on Mobile Platform & Lack of standard interoperability.
The panel was moderated by Ms.Swaran Latha (W3C India Country Manager & Director & HoD for TDIL Programme of MC & IT of Government of India). The moderator covered in length the challenges in this area, what Govt. of India is doing to get all stakeholders on board in enabling Indian Languages, nudging them into place without any hard legislations. My good friend and the expert on this field Mr.Muthu Nedumaran from Murasu Systems (Malaysia) covered on the technologies that are now available including in iOS, Android (HTC Explorer) and recent BlackBerry OS. Mr.Sridhar of Akruti talked about the path that has been covered in last two decades in this field.
I myself talked on the need for educating and awareness building amongst the users & stakeholders on the possibility & business potential of enabling the Devices, OS and Apps for Indian Languages. India only has 5% of its population (say 40 Million of the 800 Million Mobile users) who know to read & write English, what about the 95% they are not using SMS or even Address book?. There is an urgent need for the industry to educate the users that using Mobile doesn’t mean learning English & poor communication. I have seen that most of the time the Device OEM’s Engineering & Head Office (say in US, Europe, Japan or Taiwan) is ready to do Indian Languages (when they do tens of languages worldwide this is routine to them), it is the Indian Marketing & Operations office that throws the spanner. They sit in their glass offices in Gurgaon & Bangalore and think everyone in India speaks English including Drivers, Maids, Cooks & Factory workers. By doing this they are not only killing our languages (but most of Indian Languages are classical languages surviving over thousands of years of external invasion), but also depriving the productivity & economic advantage that better communication through Mobile enables for common man (Aam Aadmi).
There is no cost reasoning today for not doing Indian Language support today in Mobile Devices (it costs less than 50 US cents per device and falls to zero when you go to millions of units). Today Indian Languages is supported in major Mobile OSes – iOS (Display & input through Apps), Android through OEM software from HTC or Samsung has full support and Blackberry through add-on install. Even Nokia Symbian OS has support enabled in their lost cost devices. Only Microsoft Windows Phone 7.x doesn’t have any kind of Indian Language support, it is sad because Microsoft was the first major OS vendor in PCs to fully support many of the Indian Languages way back from Windows 2000. Hopefully the next version of Windows Phone (WP8) having an unified Kernel with Desktop Windows (Disclaimer: Nothing official yet from Microsoft, but rumoured here) will start supporting Indian Languages.
Finally if the stakeholders can’t be convinced it is time for Parliament (and not individual State Assemblies) to come with laws requiring Indian Language support across the eco-system (Operator, SMS, Devices, OS & Apps) – *YES I said this, which is rare for someone like me who prefers lean and small Government & Compact Laws*.
As always attending a Microsoft technology conference (TechEd India 2012) was fun & educative. You can catch the clips here and other information from here, so I will keep this post to few sessions I managed to attend.
The 3 day conference happened at Hotel Lalit Ashok, a fine hotel but as a conference venue I try to like it but I can’t. The map they give while registering keeps getting less comprehensible year after year, I was pretty sure if I run in circles I could have found the rooms faster than the map or ask the event folks. And this happens even though I am supposed to be familiar with the topography & room names as I have been here for many years now, either as a speaker or as an attendee.
In Windows 8, apart from Metro UI & WinRT there has been incremental improvements to Windows 7 in terms of Boot time, Tast Manager, Explorer file copy & so on. But I learn that there are significant improvements to Windows Server "8" from Windows Server 2008 R2. I attended the Windows Server "8" modern workstyle enabled by Pracheta Budhwar & Windows Server "8" The power of many Servers, the simplicity of one by Kamal Jain. Both were introduction sessions to new features in Windows Server "8", lot of improvements have been made relevant for all use cases, from Single Server to Clusters. DHCP Resiliency, SAN storage copy offloading, unified server manager, Hyper-V dynamic movement of running VMs & many more.
Demo Extravaganza by Harish Vaidyanathan & Nahas Mohammed was fun & entertaining. They showed lot of cool stuffs around Windows 8 Keyboard shortcuts, roaming profile and so on. When they were distributing "goodies" like Nokia Lumia 800 or T-Shirts, the stampede like scene near the front rows were scary.
Vinod Kumar demos in Demo Extravaganza on tips for Office 2010 were interesting, I knew the Access email data collection tip but the PowerPoint Photo Editing feature (Remove Background in Format Ribbon) was new to me.
Day 2 the first session I went was BigData & Elastic Cloud by Ramkumar Kothandaraman. He rocked with his practical insights & applications in real life for BigData (How Target figured out a teen girl was pregnant before her father did, U.K. Man deported from LA for joke tweet about Destroying America). His example for explaining MapReduce was awesome – making juice by first cutting fruits, then grouping them by fruit-family (Apples, Oranges) and then putting them through a blender.
The next talk I went was a session by MTC (Microsoft Technology Center) team – Vinod Kumar, Govind Kanshi & Anirudda Deswandikar. MTC team rocks with their frank,practical advice on when to use & when not to use hyped technologies like ORM, Cloud, XML & Virtual Machine Platforms (Java, .NET). With all the marketing hype surrounding REST & Cloud, this talk was a bit of fresh air.
In the evening the last session I went to was by my fellow Microsoft Regional Director (RD) Stephen Forte (CSO, Telerik) on Agile Estimation. He was hilarious, putting serious data on why software estimate is always wrong at beginning. You can only improve estimate on iterations after each iteration, it is important you have many smaller iterations and there by improve your estimate. He talked about using "User Stories" & Tracking Backlogs as techniques to capture user requirements & maintain sanity in the project process. You need to insists on having one user story at least for each page if the project is a website, a single line like "Replica of Amazon.com" is not acceptable. Stephen demoed on how you can use PlanningPoker.com for improving Estimations. His same talk made in the TechEd USA is available here, don’t miss to watch it.
He gave following books for further read:
(Disclaimer: Microsoft India had given me a free pass to attend TechEd India as I am one of the Microsoft Regional Directors, a honorary title & partner program)
I was always interested in Photography, but I made little effort to learn it. Just like many others I thought it was about buying a DSLR camera and a good lens for taking great photographs. Which I did few years back when I was visiting Tokyo, I went to Yodobashi Camera store in Akihabara (this is 8 floors of camera paradise) and bought the latest at that time Nikon D80 with a 18-55MM lens. I learnt few tips from asking my friends and reading some articles in magazines that said for a good photograph you need to frame the subject correctly and lighting has to be correct. As you would have noticed seeing photos in this blog that my skills in this area are limited. I bought some books on Digital Photography and a training DVD on how to use Nikon D80 – both are lying unopened in my bookshelf for last 24 months. On top of this the menus in the camera were daunting even for a Software Engineer like me, the minute I came across Shutter Speed or Aperture in the manual I got dizzy, so I put the camera always in Auto and kept complaining why my camera produces lousy pictures and wondered whether I need to buy a TelePhoto lens and so on…
Last week I came across this one-day workshop at Konica Labs in Sterling Road conducted by famous photograph Mr.K.Dhamodharan, who has been a part of the photography industry since 1985. In 2006 Mr. Dhamodharan went for a 9100km, 21 day photography expedition from Chennai – Kashmir – Kanyakumari – Chennai- an expedition that covered the length of the Indian subcontinent. Sounded interesting, so I registered by paying Rs.4000 (plus taxes) online and attended the workshop today.
I was not sure how the program will be, will it be too dry and over my head, who will be the fellow students. But Dhamu (as he is called) put the diverse crowd (which included two retirees, one homeopathy doctor, one animation designer, one Software Tester) at ease. Most of the sample photos he showed were from his own collection. The photos were accompanied by lively commentary of the people in them, their background & a bit of gossip. This made the mostly theory sessions fun and enjoyable, without this I would have gone to sleep. Dhamu covered the basic concepts of camera – Shutter speed, Aperture, ISO in brief, to the extend needed to appreciate them. He went on to cover in detail with lots of examples on framing, lighting, selecting background & foregrounds. Lighting can change the mood and bring in a different emotion to the same subject.
Dhamu stressed the importance of cultivating a third eye to visualize and to learn from disassembling professional photographs we see in magazines & Internet. A photo should always kindle some emotions on the viewer. Then it was about how to take Portraits, Couple and so on in brief. He also covered (surprise, surprise) on how to pose for photographs – the trick is to have a full mouth smile almost showing your teeth. Dhamu kept saying that Photography is one hobby that improves your self confidence a lot, you can also enjoy the attention and the privileges that it brings with it from people around you.
Though it was advertised as a workshop, the practical was limited to the last hour of the program, which is understandable in a 1 day schedule. Overall, if you can afford to spend Rs.4000 and have interest on photography I will recommend this program.
Now that I understand the basics, I have started shooting lots of photos and I think I need to buy a new camera with a Telephoto lens :- )
Below are first photographs I took during the practise session, yes it needs lot of improvement!
World over Microsoft conducts lots and lots of events every year. Their flagship events are two – Professional Developer Conference a.k.a. PDC (this is where they announce the next big thing like .NET, Windows 2000, Longhorn, Windows Azure and so on) and Tech Ed (this is more hands-on current technologies for IT Professionals with some Developer content) happening almost every year in USA and then replicated across the world. About five years back in 2006, they announced a new event by name “Mix” which for the first time tried to bring 3 stakeholders into one event – Business Managers, Designers & Developers. It was started to promote Web development and Microsoft’s new designer tools family Microsoft Expression. This was the first Microsoft event where you got to hear Microsoft’s competitors like Yahoo! & Amazon (Microsoft wasn’t in cloud yet in 2006), which I found to be quite useful to get a sense of where Web technologies are going in general. And the lunch-table discussions I had with such a variety of audience were very interesting.
As a Microsoft Regional Director from 1999 and as a Microsoft Partner for many years, these events have become annual fixtures in my calendar.With the new “Build” event that happened last year (instead of a PDC) where they announced Windows 8, it was clear the existing Microsoft events landscape was changing. And indeed it has changed. First casualty was PDC and today they officially acknowledged that there will be no Mix in 2012. Though I feel sad for an event that offered variety and fun, in the last few years unfortunately Mix was made into yet another Developer event by Microsoft. So it was time the event got killed and merged into a unified better event.
In this moment of our prayers for “Mix” and for its soul to R.I.P I I will like to look back at some of the moments I have experienced around this event.
Bill Gates announced and kicked off the very first Mix at the Venetian, Las Vegas. The big announcement was WPF/E (which became Silverlight later) and demonstration of it on a Nokia phone which never got released.
Mix06 was my second or third trip to Vegas so I didn’t understand well on how lodging in Vegas works. I ended up blowing money (literally) by booking a $400/Night (concessional rate for attendees!) room at the venue itself (Venetian).
This event was all about Silverlight!. I am sure most of us .NET enthusiasts remember the demo where Silverlight in a browser with C# code-behind winning over Java Script in a game of chess. Looking back (from a world of Node.JS & Chakra) I was not sure on what we were smoking back then in May 2007.
I found the BBC Radio 1 and Windows Live Messenger social co-browsing (called Messenger activity then) & sharing to be quite cool. Unfortunately it never got released outside UK (just like most of the good stuffs from BBC which are available only to UK Residents due to a antiquated theory of UK Tax payer funding).
What got me thinking was a quote made by “The Economist” Publisher Mr.Andrew Rashbass on a panel discussion (which alone was worth my travel to the US from India). The quote was on how Portable Reader devices replacing paper. Andrew said “it will not happen in short-term, not in mid-term and definitely not in long-term and that BillG can use one, but no one else will use it”
I think this year Microsoft started to highlight that Mix was a “72 Hour conversation”, a tag line I liked & which I consider to have captured the essence of what Mix ‘06 and Mix ‘07 were. The evening party on one of the days was fun and colourful.
After blowing my money staying in Venetian, I realized how lodging works in Vegas – you can get rooms from $40 to $1 Million per night, it all depends on what you are looking for. From this year, I was booking myself a room at $40 in the Stratosphere Hotel. Although it is on the other end of the Strip, it was a good 30 minutes walk in the evening after you finish your dinner near by to Venetian like in the Food court at The Capital Grille.
This year the keynote was by Ray Ozzie who outlined Microsoft’s investment in IE and Silverlight, Web Slices and more. Lots of demos this year.
Then it was Dean Hachamovitch talking about how great IE 8.0 was (do you remember this IE?)
Lot of coverage about live streaming capabilities of Silverlight during the then upcoming Beijing Olympics
My fellow RD Scott Stanfield’s company Vertigo demoing the “Hard Rock” app they have build using Silverlight and Deep-Zoom technology.
Coca-Cola sponsored UEFA Euro 2008 & Windows Live Messenger community (what was that I don’t remember other than the photograph below?)
On the corridors of the show, I gave an audio interview to Scott Hanselman on Outsourcing (the hot topic then because of a Presidential Election year in USA).
Mix ‘09, 10, 11
Due to the onslaught of recession, travel budget constraints and thanks to great live streaming of the Keynotes by Microsoft, the next three years I decided to watch it from Home, only trouble being the need to have loads of coffee to keep me awake through the Night in India. I didn’t miss out the individual talks either – all the session videos were made available from Channel9 for download in few days of the event getting over.